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Used Car Review: 1989 Lincoln Town Car (1st Gen)


1920's Lincoln L Series

1920's Lincoln L Series

"Town Car"

According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the term "Town Car" was in 1906, referring to a vehicle with an enclosed rear passenger compartment and a driver up front. This vehicle originating in France was more commonly referred to as a limousine "de ville," more or less translating into English as "Town Car." In the early 1900's before the automobile was more common place, town cars were horse drawn carriages and essentially taxi's for the wealthy. After WWI, a man named Henry Leland, the founder of Cadillac (having already sold Cadillac to General Motors), formed the Lincoln Motor Company. In 1920 Lincoln began to sell (for the 1921 model year) the Lincoln L Series, essentially giving birth to what would become the Lincoln Town Car.

1st Gen (1981-1989)

1989 Lincoln Town Car

1989 Lincoln Town Car

This Ford masterpiece may have been one of the smoothest rides possible in the 1980's. Lincoln has always been about luxury, and it shows in these first generation town cars. Originally a town car was just a designation for vehicles like the Lincoln Continental, but in the 1980's the Town Car became worthy of its very own model line. There is a reason why the Lincoln Limo Town Car is one of the most recognizable limousines ever made. You would be hard pressed to find a more comfortable car from the era. The 1st gen Lincoln Town Car came in two main trim levels; the base model, and the Signature Series. Closing in on the late '80s, Lincoln would also offer special editions such as, the Cartier Edition, Special Edition, and even a Gucci Edition. In the name of luxury, Lincoln also provided most of its Town Car trims "fully loaded" with pretty advanced technology for the time such as, 6-way power seats, digital displays, JBL premium sound systems, 5 digit programmable locks, and the list goes on.


The specs on the 1st generation Lincoln Town Car were more or less the same for the generation. All of them sporting the infamous Ford 5.0 liter Windsor V8 engine married to a 4 speed automatic transmission with automatic overdrive. Between 1981 and 1989 the Town Car would gradually grow from 130hp and 230lb-ft of torque to 160hp and 280lb-ft of torque. Any Town Car from the era with the towing package would also offer a limited slip differential and dual exhausts.

Spec Table

EngineHorse PowerTorque

Ford 5.0l Windsor (302 cu. in.)

130hp - 160hp (gradually growing from '81 -'89)

230lb-ft -280lb-ft

1986 Lincoln Town Car Limo

1986 Lincoln Town Car Limo

My Experience

A 1987 Lincoln Town Car was the first car I ever had, given to me by my grandfather at the age of 16. Granted this car was about 20 years old in 2006, it is still one of my favorite cars. Everybody I knew called this car a boat, and let me tell you this boat could float! This baby rode like a magic carpet. Personally, I beat the hell out of this 150hp monstrosity. Living in Kentucky at the time, I would drive to band practice and everywhere for that matter, jumping hills like I was one of the Duke boys. I spent the entirety of a summer beating this car like it owed me money, until one sad Sunday evening on my way to Michigan. The sun was already setting on a Sunday in late summer on I-75 in Kentucky, when at about the Dry Ridge area, the engine more or less exploded. Right away I knew I had to have blown a water jacket. Steam pouring out of the engine compartment, having sprayed water literally everywhere in the engine bay, I knew this car was doomed. I did my best to limp this car into town overheating the whole way. I stopped off at a gas station and poured as much stop leak as money could buy into the radiator, hoping to stifle the damage long enough to get me to my destination. After a quick test drive around town, getting to my destination in this car was not going to happen. Pretty much anywhere that could help was closed on a late Sunday evening; I was helpless. Stranded back at the gas station, I discussed my situation with the clerk. Turns out, the clerk was related to someone who came with a tow truck and bought my Lincoln for a few hundred dollars and turned it into a derby car. The perfect send off in my eyes for a car so large. Afterwards I waited in Dry Ridge until about midnight when my grandfather showed up in his 1995 Lincoln Town Car from Michigan, and I drove us all the way back home. A couple years later, I would own another 1986 Lincoln Town Car that I sadly sold in favor of buying a POS Dodge Intrepid.

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Final Opinion

If you manage to find one of these today and buy one, hold on to it as this car is a classic. On average in my area a late '80s Lincoln Town Car in good shape will run about $5000 USD. It truly is one of my favorite cars I've had to date, and will serve well over 200,000 miles with care. It may be big and boxy, but it is a solid built and comfortable ride. Gas mileage however is atrocious, with the average being in the ball park of 15-18 mpg. If you want to ride around town in comfort, and classic style, in your very own pimp mobile, this is the car you want. If you've owned or still own this vehicle, rate it in the poll below from 1 being horrible to 5 being great, and thank you for reading.


© 2021 Nicholas Conner

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